Oilers continue playoff push, visit Avalanche

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By Nicole Dibenedetto

Stats Writer

Edmonton (33-27-9) at Colorado (31-38-2) 9 p.m. EDT

DENVER (AP) -- The Edmonton Oilers have posted at least one

point for five games in a row. They hope to claim two in a

second consecutive contest for the first time in a month when

they visit the last-place Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

The Oilers (33-27-9), in the thick of a crowded bottom half of

the Western Conference playoff chase, are 2-0-3 in their last

five games after going 2-4-2 in the previous eight. They haven't

won back-to-back games since a three-game run from Feb. 11-16.

They kept their current point streak intact Tuesday, beating St.

Louis 2-1 in a shootout. The victory also snapped a three-game

losing streak in which each contest was decided in overtime,

including Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Avalanche (31-38-2).

Seven of Edmonton's last nine games have been decided by one

goal.

"Those situations are crucial right now at this point of the

season," Oilers right wing Ales Kotalik said after netting the

lone shootout goal Tuesday. "To be able to contribute this way

to help the guys get a huge two points felt pretty good. I'm

thrilled and happy for all the guys on this team to get a win

after putting so much effort into this game."

Kotalik, acquired from Buffalo at the March 4 trade deadline, is

third in NHL history with 19 shootout goals and that total

includes 10 game-winners to tie Altanta's Slava Kozlov for the

league record. This season, Kotalik has had 12 attempts in

shootouts and converted a career-high seven, two behind

Avalanche left wing Wojtek Wolski for the league lead.

Kotalik, though, hasn't recorded a point in six games with the

Oilers after totaling 13 goals and 19 assists in 56 contests

with Buffalo this season. He has one goal in five career games

against Colorado but found the net on his only career shootout

attempt against Avs goaltender Peter Budaj in a 2-1 Sabres win

on Oct. 25.

Edmonton, which plays five of its next six on the road, is 2-1-2

against Colorado this season, including a split of two games at

the Pepsi Center. The Oilers took the last meeting there, 3-2 on

Jan. 16 to snap a five-game road losing streak in the series.

The Avalanche, tied with Phoenix at the bottom of the West, are

looking to avoid a third consecutive loss after falling 3-2 in a

shootout at Minnesota on Tuesday night and 4-2 at Vancouver on

Sunday.

Colorado might use Budaj in net for a second consecutive game

after he made 27 saves Tuesday. He's been much more effective

than Andrew Raycroft of late, going 3-1-1 with a 1.55

goals-against average in his last five games after losing his

five previous starts - getting pulled in one - while posting a

4.07 GAA. Raycroft is 0-5-0 with a 2.86 GAA in his last six

games.

Budaj is 5-1-1 with a 1.96 GAA in seven home meetings with

Edmonton.

Another factor on his side is how poorly the Oilers' special

teams have been recently. Edmonton is 3-for-41 on the power play

in its last 12 games and its opponents are 11-for-27 over the

last eight.

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